A pair of highly polished men’s black dress shoes sit atop a table shaped like something out of the 1930s. It could be the opening shot of an old Fred Astaire movie. Except for the fact that these particular items happen to be under a homemade tarp roof that is lined with literally hundreds of suspended coffee mugs. And they are scrunched in among vast stacks of used appliances, golf paraphernalia, horseshoes, assorted kitchenware, stuffed animals and plastic toys, glassware, wooden doors, hardware and a myriad of other types of items in every direction, everywhere you turn.
There are also bags of fresh boiled peanuts and a cooler of ice-crusted soft drinks nearby. And this is just within a few feet of the entrance. Well, one of the entrances.
There doesn’t seem to be any correct way to enter Irvin Summers’ Giant Garage Sales & Flea Market, a prominent staple forming one of the five corners known as “Six Points” on one leg of Trolley Line Road, just on the outer edge of Aiken (try as I might, I could not find the sixth point).
I stepped into its deep cavelike coolness and was greeted almost immediately and most cordially by Irv himself. He was seated on a faded maroon office chair at the side of one of the main aisles. There is a chair next to his awaiting visitors who might want to sit and chat. Quite a few do. They ask about his wife’s health and how business is doing and talk about the projects they’ve come to complete with something they’re sure they’ll find somewhere within his collections – this maze of castoffs and treasures waiting to be found again.
Irv typically can take you right to the area where you are most likely to find what you’re after. Or, he can also sense when you’re there to just prowl a bit and discover something all on your own. Not much carries a price tag. You and Irv work that out together. And it’s Irv’s personal policy that if it’s something you really need, you won’t leave without it. It’s his commitment to the community, he says.
I was looking for a small bookcase. So Irv took me to the furniture section – a separate but adjoining building. I got sidetracked on the way with old window panes and wooden ladders, stacks of tires and grocery store carts. He told me how he had gotten started in this business at auctions and buyouts some 25 to 30 years ago. It had grown and been moved to this location, and now he says he doesn’t even have to go out to replenish his stock of items – people bring things right to his various doors. It’s probably a fair bet that they’re bought at about the same price for which they’re sold. Irv seems to be content just serving as a conduit between sellers and buyers.
I was a bit surprised by the number of families and children among the customers. And I seemed to be the only newcomer. Everyone else knew where to find the movies or the plumbing parts, the old lamps and the wicker baskets.
Once again, I became sidetracked – this time with an intriguing tin contraption called a “Dog-O-Matic” and a hand-painted sign stating that “snowflakes are kisses from heaven.”
The centerpiece of the entire property, however, has got to be the 20-foot high pile of old bicycles, shaped and lighted like a Christmas tree. I meant to ask Irv about this. But he was busy with another customer by then – a family completing a craft project and there to collect pieces to add to it. So I wandered off to explore the old books and movies section.
By the time I left, I had found my own treasure – not the bookcase I had been seeking, but something infinitely more fun: an old pool table scorekeeper made up of wooded spools and numbers on a long hanging wire. “What are you going to do with it?” Irv wanted to know. “I have no idea,” I responded truthfully. “But you will come back, I hope,” he said as he escorted me to an exit. “Absolutely,” I responded equally truthfully.
After all, who doesn’t want to walk down cool paths of memories around islands piled high with possibilities? Where else can you find Fred Astaire dance shoes, kisses from heaven, and a dog-o-matic?
Marti Healy is a local writer.
Marti Healy is a local writer and author of the books “The God-Dog Connection,” “The Rhythm of Selby,” “The Secret Child,” and a collection of her columns: “Yes, Barbara, There is an Aiken.”